Skinshifter – Exclusive M12 Preview!

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For our exclusive preview from Magic 2012, we asked some of our staff to voice their thoughts!

It's a Bird! It's a Plant!

Corbin Hosler (Forecasting Manager)

I'm pretty sure this guy is actually just insane for Green post-rotation, and probably before then. I see him fitting perfectly in a Fauna Shaman deck, probably played alongside Chancellor of the Tangle and Lotus Cobra.

Any game that starts off with a Chancellor into either Skinshifter or a mana dork (like a Turn 1 Cobra into Skinshifter) represents an insane start for the deck. He can beat for 4 on Turn 2 (which is unheard of outside of Steppe Lynx, and for just one mana it can stay out of Red sweeper range. On top of all that, he can turn evasive when he needs to.

For the time being it looks like Fauna Shaman decks are going to be held back by Valakut, but it's possible they'll be able to adapt in the new format now that Valakut is clearly in the crosshairs.

I'll be picking these up at the prerelease, and his medium-term price point rests solely on how powerful midrange Green (Shaman, Cobra, Vengevine) decks are in the post-bannings meta. If these decks are able to compete, I can see him sitting around $8. If Valakut holds down those decks as expected, then Skinshifter looks like he'll stay in the $3-5 range and be a good pickup (once his price drops from the initial hype) for post-rotation play.

Tyler Tyssedal (Legacy Editor)

The main mitigating factor for Legacy is the mana expenditure each turn.  At 4/4, it narrowly rivals Tarmogoyf.  Equipping it with Swords and sending it skyward will be relevant for decks like Bant and Zoo (when running equipment) lack evasion beyond Birds of Paradise.  When comparing Skinshifter to Tarmogoyf, we have to ask if Goyf's conditional nature is preferable to an activated ability that costs mana.

The fact that it can become a gigantic wall that can easily stop Knight of the Reliquary and Terravore, as well as opposing Tarmogoyfs, will become important in aggro-on-aggro matchups.  As a Green Sun's Zenith target, it makes for a great sword-carrier and can usually find a role in the current game state.   A 2/2 flier is always useful for assassinating opposing Planeswalkers and carrying over the last couple points of damage, and the ubiquitous man-lands of Legacy can't do much to stop him.  The 0/8 plant form can even stop a Batterskull equipped with a Sword!  Most decks in Legacy will play enough spot removal to toast this guy, and many decks still play Spell Snare.  It's main use in Legacy will be as a role-player or a Green Sun's Zenith target, since it fills three roles that no other single card does.

Kelly Reid (Editor-In-Chief)

This card is Morphling.  Sure, it dies to Terror or whatever the kids are calling it these days, but it survives Dismember!  Beating for 4 on turn 3 is very nice.  It can ground pound, evade, or block.  What else can you ask of a 2-drop? I want to say that people are going to over-react, but this guy really seems nuts.  I'd spot the card at $5, which might be conservative given its power level.  Very few cards in Magic can beat for 4 and block for 8, and none do it at 2 CMC.

Well, that was my reaction before I realized that you can only shift him once per turn! In light of that, I'm revising my prediction to start him at $4 instead of 5.  He's definitely not morphling after all, since you can't do shifting shenanigans multiple times during combat, but all things considered, he's a scary 2-drop for certain.   There are plenty of answers, so $4 is my max.  I would put it's 2 month target at around $2, unless I have colossally misjudged both the metagame and this card.

Ryan Bushard (Rogue Trader)

Our exclusive preview card for M12 looks to be an exciting addition to the 2-drop creature slot.  The ability to provide  steady clock and stand up to any burn spell in the format, this guy will find a home in a midrange green/x deck. This guy has it all; in the early game he can help keep you alive. Late game, after you have stabilized, Skinshifter starts going to town, either by beating for four on the ground or flying over to keep the damage coming.  Green does not often have access to fliers, so Skinshifter offers green an evasion option outside its normal color wheel.
The low mana cost  allows Skinshifter to be played as a 3-drop, allowing for mana to boost his toughness on the same turn.  There are a few disadvantages to this card that make it a slightly awkward choice for a metagame quickly shaping up to be fast and full of burn.  Considering how good Red's spells are, even without Bolt, Skinshifter is effectively a 3-drop.  Running him out there without mana to boost his toughness is a surefire way to get him killed.
The fact that his ability can only be activated once a turn also limits his potential.  He can be burned in
response and has far fewer "broken"  interactions (such as becoming a 4/4 flying trample)r. That being said,
he is still a solid contender if he can find a home in the future year.
As a rare in a large core set we can assume a few things about Skinshifter’s price immediately, based on previous knowledge. He will likely begin his life in the three to five dollar range, as with most
playable rares, and from there his playability will decide his price point. With a definite shot
at seeing competitive play I don’t see him dropping below two to three dollars but at the same time
given his drawbacks we can assume he will not break the five to seven range. I personally feel like the
recurring mana cost keeps him from being a contender in a quick aggressive strategy, forcing him into a
midrange deck which limits his playability and price. I expect him to debut at $4 and slowly drop closer to $2 unless he begins to see competitive play. He does appear to be a four-of in most decks that would want to run him, but his narrow utility will keep him below $5.
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Dylan Lerch Spike editor

Skinshifter does a number of intriguing things. My first thought was to dismiss it as a Leatherback Baloth with an upside, but I think there may be more going on here.

First and foremost, he can act as a 0/8 blocker. With Grim Lavamancer coming back in M12 alongside Skinshifter, and with Dismember setting the pace for spot removal moving forward, having 8 toughness is huge. Playing this guy on turn 3 with G open helps to negate his 1/1 base stats, and threatens to turn him into either a 0/8 or a 4/4 blocker.

Where will Skinshifter's price settle in? I think it's pretty clear that it's a worse card than Fauna Shaman, M11's 1G chase rare of sorts, but how much worse remains to be seen. Both cards clearly fulfill different roles.

Skinshifter's main asset as far as I can tell is his ability to play defense and still attack back for 4 when the opening exists. Any 2-drop that can threaten a 5-turn clock is something to be considered for Standard.

Unfortunately, he's still "just a guy." Skinshifter doesn't have an ETB ability, it doesn't provide you any value beyond attacking and blocking, but that's something that sure hasn't stopped cards like Tarmogoyf from becoming powerhouses. Being able to use its ability only once per turn should keep this card from becoming a 2-drop faux Morphling. A savvy opponent will be able to remove it, albeit at a 2-for-1 cost most of the time.

Fauna Shaman can be had right now for $6.50 or less. I have a hard time seeing the more one-dimensional Skinshifter cracking $4.

4 thoughts on “Skinshifter – Exclusive M12 Preview!

  1. Seems like a terrible card. For it to be good so many things have to go right, plus you have to leave mana up all the time if your worried about burn, not to mention the trio of doom blade, gftt, and dismember which should all easily eat this card for breakfast. Seems like thrun is an all around better card for 4/4 beats, even if it takes a few more turns (though I guess if you're loading your deck with junk like chancellor…)

  2. Meh, the card is sweet. Not drop-dead amazing, not in-every-Top8 deck caliber, but it's sweet. And Benjamin Jones, you really just fell back on the "Dies to removal" claim. Which is, honestly, lame.

    Valakut in the crosshairs… What about Splinter/Twin?

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